The Rapidian

Wealthy Theatre invites public to major press conference

Thursday's 10:45 a.m. press conference at Wealthy Theatre "is the culmination of everything we've been doing for the past three years," says Wealthy Theatre Director Erin Wilson, who promises a dozen major announcements about what CMC has done to secure the future of the landmark theatre.
Underwriting support from:

Wealthy Theatre

Wealthy Theatre, located at 1130 Wealthy Street SE (Grand Rapids, MI) is a community venue and historic theatre, owned and operated by Grand Rapids Community Media Center (CMC). The Wealthy Theatre Sustainability Campaign partners included: 

The people of the City of Grand Rapids

Frey Foundation

Steelcase Foundation

The Wege Foundation

The Steve Van Andel Foundation

Consumers Energy Foundation

Rockford Construction

West Michigan 500 Strong

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation

Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC)

Steelcase Inc.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF)

/Erin Wilson

/Erin Wilson

A press conference, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Thursday at Community Media Center's Wealthy Theatre, will reveal several major announcements about the culmination of a multi-year project to upgrade and "green" the theatre.

"There are maybe half a dozen theatres in the world who've gone this far, with greening technology," says Theatre Director Erin Wilson. "We didn't want to say anything until it was done... [but] with the completion of this project, by Labor Day Wealthy Theatre will be an international leader in historic preservation."

Wealthy Theatre began a major campaign during its Centennial year (2011) to accomplish a nearly $1 million series of comprehensive upgrades, including some that Wilson says "put Wealthy Theatre in a class of the t10 most forward-thinking historic theatres in the world, in its groundbreaking strategies to achieve sustainability."

Wilson says the strategies have three intricately related goals, which guided the project over three years:

  • Relevancy to the community, which includes accessibility
  • Historic presrevation, repair and maintenance
  • Ensuring financial survival ("keeping the lights on")

Success is only possible, Wilson says, if all three goals are treated as equally important. 

"Our Historic Preservation Commission categorizes buildings as 'contributing' or 'non-contributing' structures," Wilson says. "It's more than just the facade, and how it looks when you drive by: Wealthy Theatre only is useful if it contributes to the lives of the people in the neighborhood, and to do that, we must remain accessible."

Rising energy costs were a primary cause in designing solutions to keep usage fees low, Wilson says. 

"We had to keep the lights on, yet we had to find a way to avoid raising rates," Wilson says. "So we had to change the rules, and use less energy - a lot less energy." 

At the same time, he says, the theatre needed to invest in upgrades to give community users access to professional production technologies. And Wealthy Theatre had to address parts of the building that were going into disrepair: two rooftops, six HVAC (heat/ac) units, much of the wood trim, and almost all the paint.

"With the support of the community, and major foundations, we approached all our weaknesses at once," Wilson says. "On Thursday, at the press conference, we get to tell everyone about it." 

No reservations are necessary for the press conference and the entire community is invited, Wilson says. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. and the press conference starts at 10:45 a.m. He says it will last about 20 minutes, and will include a series of photos and videos, all to take place in the main theatre.

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